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Keith Olbermann: Ask Hillary About. . .

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Tonight, MSNBC will telecast a Democratic presidential forum sponsored by the AFL-CIO, with an expected audience of thousands of union members at Chicago’s historic Soldier Field.  Although questions will come mostly from labor folks, the forum will be moderated by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, known for his searing anti-Bush “Special Comments.” 

Below I propose a few questions I’d like to hear tonight.  I don’t submit these as a  disgruntled former MSNBC employee.  If disgruntlement were my motivation, I’d be urging Keith to ask the candidates what they think about a TV network like MSNBC that operates union-free, where management ordered producers in the run-up to the Iraq invasion to favor pro-invasion guests. (MSNBC was as complicit as Fox News in promoting Bush’s Iraq disaster.)       

Rather, I submit the following questions as a lifelong union supporter, and a former union steward.  These aren’t the easy questions that allow Democrats to all place themselves on one side, with Bush on the other.  These are the ones that divide Democrats. 

These questions focus on polices that affect the lives and livelihoods of most Americans – in other words, the kind of questions that hold little interest for the Beltway pundit elite that prefers covering politics as a Hillary/Obama celebrity feud.


TRADE:  The last Democrat in the White House, Bill Clinton, worked ferociously alongside big business lobbyists to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) over the objections of labor, environmentalists and consumer advocates, whose fears of NAFTA’s negative impacts have largely materialized.  During his 1992 campaign, Mr. Clinton had expressed concerns about NAFTA before becoming its main booster once in the White House.


How can you -- especially those of you who supported NAFTA – assure voters that, if elected, you will not bend to corporate pressures to pass corporate-drafted trade deals that undermine labor and environmental protections?


If elected, will you work to repeal NAFTA?


HEALTHCARE:  By removing private insurance (and its waste, red tape, sales commissions, CEO salaries, profits) from healthcare, Congressional studies have found that streamlined, single-payer Medicare for All would save society billions of dollars.  Many experts see it as the only path to quality, universal coverage.  In March, the AFL-CIO Executive Council endorsed expanding Medicare to the whole country.  Hundreds of labor groups – including eight national unions, 21 state federations and 81 central labor councils – specifically endorse John Conyers’ H.R. 676, the “Enhanced Medicare for All” bill sponsored by 76 members of Congress.


Excepting Mr. Kucinich who co-sponsors H.R. 676, please explain why you oppose “Enhanced Medicare for All.” 


How many of you have seen Michael Moore’s movie, SiCKO?  If you’ve seen it, do you disagree with Moore’s thesis that for-profit insurers deform our system and that healthcare is a right, not a commodity to be purchased?  If you haven’t seen it, why not?  

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Jeff Cohen was director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he was an associate professor of journalism. He founded the progressive media watch group in 1986.

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